Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Milavec continues to suggest reasons for the Didache’s teaching about giving. Because of cultural norms it would have been an expectation for novices to give money to their teachers. However, 13:2 shows the masters were already supported. milavec notes admonitions in the New Testament and in rabbinic teaching against charging for godly instruction. The novice was likely being taught not to try to pay for righteousness in teaching or in receiving forgiveness (Milavec 2003, 194). Giving would be focused in other directions, such as providing some token relief to the poor in society while waiting for Christ’s coming (Milavec 2003, 195). Giving generously to the poor may also have served to provoke questioning. The cultural norm was not generosity. When care shown to others was noticed, an explanation of Christian motivation could be a natural response. milavec also notes that such generosity could serve to separate the novices from their families, who would not want wealth squandered. This would bind the novice to the Christian community (Milavec 2003, 196).
Milavec does ask whether the unrestrained giving would decapitalize novices driving them into poverty. He notes there are no restrictions placed on the number of novices or the frequency of admitting new members to the community. Was there “a natural limit to the unrestrained giving” taught in 1:5 (Milavec 2003, 197)? Milavec does assume that giving by a person in a household would be limited by the head of the household. That person would still provide a home, a trade, and food, but would curtail the generosity. The novices would not become impoverished (Milavec 2003, 198). If the novice was a head of a household, Milavec assumes the mentor would intervene so as to prevent poverty.
Milavec notes that Didache 4:5-8 points to a revised ethic. After baptism and admission to communion, there will be a sort of communal economy in which people will share within the community for the good of all (Milavec 2003, 201).
One of the Qumran documents, the Manual of Discipline, provides a comprehensive discussion of community organization and training which leads to admission into the community (Milavec 2003, 202). After admission into the community, property control passed to the community (Milavec 2003, 203). There may have been some remaining personal property rights, but they seemed quite limited. Milavec suggests that the Didache communities were similar in this regard. The emphasis was on protecting the community as a whole against economic decay.
There were some elements of self-interest in the giving described in the Didache. Milavec notes 4:6 “ransoming your sins” and 4:7 to receive “an excellent recompense” (Milavec 2003, 203) at the Lord’s coming. However, the self-interest was to be subordinate to God’s kingdom. Gain through an occupation was a gift of God. The giving would be seen as payment of a ransom of sorts.